NBA Lockout - M.A.D. for the NBA

For the non-experts in labor law (and you can include me in that category), let's go over what has happened. After many hours this morning in a meeting that included the players' executive committee, the team player representatives and many other interested players including the likes of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, the player's association choose not to accept the owners' latest offer (the Nov. 10 offer), not to allow a vote on it, and instead to disband the union.

This last part is key. While agents have already been seeking the signatures necessary to force a vote on decertification, that process could have taken two months or more. Instead, Billy Hunter has filed what is called a "disclaimer of interest", voluntarily stepping aside as the representative of the union, thereby dissolving it. That opens the door for an immediate anti-trust lawsuit, which the players will now file.

Calling this the nuclear option is an apt description. During the cold war and still today, the logic to controlling nuclear arsenals was a principle called Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) - they won't launch their nukes because they know we'd launch ours, everyone would die and no one wants that. An anti-trust lawsuit is pretty much M.A.D. NBA-style, certainly for the season, and certainly for a tremendous amount of value on both sides of the ledger. I find it very unlikely that this move will help the players - it clearly hurts them short term, and it's difficult to envision much benefit even in the long term. But they will no doubt get some consolation in knowing that they are inflicting pain - for the first time in this process - on Stern and his owners. 

The NBA does not want this. Even if the risk that they would actually be found liable in an anti-trust lawsuit is relatively low, the chaos and terrible public relations of this scenario are exceedingly bad for the league. For instance, the league has said that all player contracts would be voided if the union decertifies - but they don't really want that. For all their talk about wanting competitive balance, the current contractual situation in the NBA was pointing towards better balance in the near future, under any CBA. The Lakers, Spurs, Celtics and Mavericks have aging, expensive rosters. The Thunder, Grizzlies and Clippers are positioned to become top teams. How bitter would be the irony if the contracts were all invalidated, and when someday the NBA returns, Blake Griffin ends up with the Lakers and Kevin Durant ends up with the Spurs?

As we've said for months now, the players have had no leverage in this process. The owners knew that, and engaged in a mean-spirited shakedown that could not in any real sense be described as a negotiation. The only risk to the owners - the only risk - was that it would get so nasty that they would force the players to do something stupid. And that's what just happened.

Bye bye season. Bye bye Blake Griffin for the second time in three years in the league. And who knows? Maybe bye bye Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan for good, if contracts are indeed revoked.

Hello college hoops.

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